WICHITA, Kan. — McConnell Air Force Base is celebrating the start of a construction project that will prepare it for a new role as the main operating base for KC-46A air refueling tankers.
"Today McConnell Air Force Base Kansas is first again," says General Darren McDew, Air Mobility Command Commander.
McConnell will be the first Main Operating Base (MOB) for the KC-46A Pegasus tanker aircraft..
The ceremonial groundbreaking signals the soon to begin major construction required for the much larger planes coming.
The KC-46 is currently in production at Boeing. General McDew says it will be the newest plane in the air force fleet and will be the cornerstone of the nation's air refueling capability.
Several facilities at McConnell will be built or renovated making an economic impact locally. A hangar contract valued at $197 million was awarded May 22 to Archer Western Aviation Partners of Chicago, Illinois.
In all there will be 16 individual construction projects over four years totaling $265-million.
Representative Mike Pompeo says, "This will have an enormous economic impact on our community certainly in the short run with a couple hundred million dollars in construction in a year. That's a lot of construction for a place like south central Kansas."
His Republican primary opponent, former congressman Todd Tiahrt, has criticized Pompeo's vote against the spending bill which funded the project.
Pompeo defended that vote Monday. He says the decision to bring the tankers to Wichita was made long before the appropriations vote. Pompeo says he knew McConnell would get the tankers anyway, so he voted against that bill because it also cut veterans' benefits.
Leaders say McConnell's selection as the first active duty KC-46 main operating base secures the base's future in Wichita.
Senator Jerry Moran says, "This really does ensure that McConnell Air Force Base has a long and bright future. It gives us much greater assurance that McConnell will be here today, tomorrow and well into the future."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.